The battle started ten months ago with seven contenders. By April there were twenty-six sluggers of varying degrees of viability in the ring. Then came the fisticuffs.
Some suffered, I believe, from a simple lack of exposure, which to me translates as a lack of experience. Others put up a pretty good fight but had to concede defeat. Notables include:
Adam Giambrone – Finishing his term as head of Toronto’s Transit Commission and toppled over a sex scandal in February. I didn’t lose any sleep over it. Plus, Jammers is what, like, 18? He’s got plenty of politics ahead of him if he wants to stay in the game.
Giorgio Mammoliti – Had a bit of momentum but in July decided he’d rather try to stay on as a Toronto Councillor for his current ward. No mistaking Giorgio as being anything but 100% bona fide Ai-talian, but I guess it takes more than that these days. I don’t think he even has any mob connections.
Sarah Thompson – Strangely, not yet on the list of mayoral casualties, but Sarah gets an extra star next to her name for being the feisty (previously unknown) newcomer who demonstrated she could play with the big kids. She hung in for quite a while before throwing in the towel about a month ago and joining forces with George Smitherman. She’s a self-made businesswoman and has her own magazine — I think she’ll be fine.
Rocco Rossi – The man with the million-dollar smile is also not on the drop-out list but this was only a couple of weeks ago (the paperwork to update a government website probably takes as long). Rocco was the ringleader behind John Tory’s campaign — the one other man who might’ve broken through in this selection had he chosen to run. Unfortunately, Rocco’s beaming smile and charisma didn’t carry him through and he left quietly without endorsing anyone else.
As many people expected, the race was mostly just casual mud flinging until September or so when the media got in high-gear. Then it was one debate and town hall after another, none of which I attended. To be honest, I think the websites of the top three candidates should be enough, though trying to make out the candidates hollering over each other has its charm.
When this all started I mentioned that George, “is gay and looks like a bulldog. Both, I believe, in his favour.” I still expect that he’ll probably win although I’m not convinced I’ll be ticking off his name. Some of his key promises include:
- 100-day tax, hiring, spending freeze while the city budget is re-evaluated. Sounds kinda nice but I sure hope nothing happens during those 100 days that might require hiring or spending. And, let’s face it, 100 days later, we might all be paying even more.
- Fair tenant taxes. Apparently I pay more in property taxes through my rent than a homeowner — who knew? However, the $50 / year savings isn’t making me pee myself with excitement.
- Transit. Everyone loves this issue — for a city the size of Toronto, we are pretty damn far behind when it comes to public transit. We only have 3 main subway lines and most of our subway cars / streetcars are antiques. On top of this, streetcars take up literally 50% of the roads downtown but the roads can’t be expanded — we’ve got light rail-infrastructure but not enough room. George wants to phase in updates over 10 years starting with getting transit going along the lake shore for the Pan Am Games in 2015. After that he wants to start construction on East-West lines in the north and update the Scarborough LRT (an eastern extension to the Bloor Subway line). Generally speaking, I’m not against this idea, but it seems incredibly wasteful to essentially scrap Transit City.
- Creating about 500 jobs through an Economic Ambassador program and prodding businesses to hire locally. Most of the city’s financial troubles will be addressed through attrition (not replacing people who retire), and by combining fire and emergency services. Electricity provider Toronto Hydro would stay in public hands. Sounds long and tedious, possibly necessary.
Rob has been so easy to criticize during this campaign. He’s well known for making off-colour public remarks and sticking his foot into his mouth on a regular basis. I don’t think he’s a bad guy, he’s just not very diplomatic. The beefy football coach’s campaign was managed by his brother (not dissimilar in many ways), and was unsurprisingly dotted with all manner of scandal and accusation. Still, Rob weathered the storm and he’s neck-and-neck with George; most polls agree it could easily go either way today.
Some of what Rob says he’ll do includes:
- Cut City Hall. Just generally, cut it. Rob’s “stop the gravy train” message resonates with many people who think politicians have been getting a free ride for too long. Councillors like Sandra Bussin, who think nothing of making anonymous phone calls to radio stations, Paula Fletcher who screams down opposition, or my own ward’s now-retired Kyle Rae who probably shouldn’t have thrown himself a $12,000 going-away party, have really helped to cement Rob’s line. While I like the rigour with which Rob approaches this, and cutting back City Hall is just a good idea anyway, most of the plan seems way too small to make a significant difference. Good try, Rob, but you need to think bigger!
- Make the TTC an essential service. Right now transit can be shut down by a strike, something that wouldn’t happen if it was designated to be essential. Mostly, though, Rob wants to end the “war on cars” he says is being perpetrated by the city so it’s obvious where his heart lies on this issue. Incredibly myopic and with few details. Sorry, Rob, another miss.
- Eliminate Land Transfer and Vehicle Registration Taxes. Obviously this one’s for the burbs. Good on Rob for reaching out but I’m feeling a bit left out here. No love, Rob, no love.
- Consider privatizing garbage collection. After last year’s strike, this is certainly something to consider. But I’m starting to sense a bit of a theme here…garbage strike pissed people off, traffic pisses people off, City Hall spending pisses people off, etc. While I’d be happy to see these things addressed, this is definitely reactionary politics; I don’t see a long-term plan here.
If you didn’t know Joey Pants before, you do now. If nothing else can be said about this dimunitive Deputy Mayor, he’s the most eminently qualified — he’s almost mayor now. However, and perhaps because of his height, Joe’s had to jump up and down and wave twice as hard as anyone else just to be heard.
Even though the chances of him becoming mayor are slim at this point, you gotta give the little guy credit for hanging in there; only he and George stayed on for the full ten months. Plus, everything I’ve heard about him indicates he’s genuinely a nice guy with a good head for this sort of thing. He just falls below the radar, that’s all.
Here’s what Joe promises our fair city if he’s elected:
- Improved transit and everyone’s welcome on the roads. Of all the candidates, Joe has the most complete plans I’ve seen (and fanciest Powerpoint slides too). In this area he’s taking the sanest most middle-of-the-road approach, but puts most of his weight behind bikes (rentals, better lanes, etc.), and public transit. He’s a fan of Transit City, the big plan put in place by current Mayor Miller to expand transit both out of town and fix what we have here. If you ask me, this is the most sensible approach — Transit City is already underway and the plan extends out to all of Toronto. Tearing it down and starting something new would be a massive waste.
- Reducing poverty and homelessness. Again, Joe has solid numbers he wants to see year over year, including building of new affordable housing units, finding housing for homeless people, and so on. I have no idea if any of these numbers are realistic but I’m thinking that Joe probably had a pretty good idea by now.
- Predictable taxes and fare increases. No promises of tax reductions here, just that tax and fare increases should be transparent and predictable. Joe wants Community Councils to run their own budgets while pushing some provincial service costs to the province. Currently, they say how stuff gets run but we in the city pay for it. How the hell did that happen?!
- Sustainable / environment initiatives. Pantalone’s got a green thumb, it seems. He’s one of the few candidates mentioning this topic and is demonstrating that he’s both a tie-dyed hippie and a bleeding heart. Besides investing in so-called green programs, Pantalone also want the city to get more involved in food production, increase support services for women, children, and families, and he’s got a whole section on helping out the elderly.
- Support diversity and youth, and tackle bed bugs. Generic, general, and really? Joe’s not the only candidate to mention bed bugs but news on this has been fairly sparse lately — and you know media love bed bug stories. Well, here’s the deal, I don’t have bed bugs and I didn’t see any mention of rent reductions so that about does it for me.
I don’t believe in the throw-away, lesser-of-evils, vote-by-fear approach. Anyone who trudges out that old pony should quickly be reminded that a minority win is just as significant on the make up of City Hall. Or Parliament. Or whatever. We should vote for the best candidate even if they’re a long-shot.
In another four years we’ll be doing this again so that little bit of support could make the difference next time around. And it’s note-worthy to point out that City Hall isn’t just the mayor, there are 44 Councillors representing the various wards of this sprawling metropolis, and they all get a vote just like the Mayor. Plus, the Council vote is just as crucial; it’s traditionally been the Councillors that have been the biggest dicks at City Hall.